Big Wednesday has turned into a bit of a big deal and I’m not sure if the league is just scheduling more games on hump day or if it just seems that way. Last night there were 14 games and when owners go back and look at what happened down the stretch in their leagues it’s this type of night that might be the pivot point.
There were plenty of smaller developments that tend to define the day-to-day of fantasy business involving a long list of players including Avery Bradley, Lance Stephenson, Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Byron Mullens, Jason Kidd, Brandon Knight, Dorell Wright, Robin Lopez, Al-Farouq Aminu, Tobias Harris, Trevor Ariza, Donatas Motiejunas, Darren Collison, Marco Belinelli, Mo Williams and Matt Barnes. Prepare for your league to have plenty of movement on the waiver wire.
Then you had updates on bigger fish like Carmelo Anthony, Derrick Rose and Kevin Love, a big injury in Phoenix to Marcin Gortat, and big lines out of Nikola Vucevic, Kobe Bryant, James Harden, Chandler Parsons, O.J. Mayo, Manu Ginobili, Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis, Blake Griffin and Jamal Crawford.
And no big night would be complete without a sizable helping of insanity from Keith Smart in Sacramento.
The only thing that was missing was Gary Busey as Leroy "The Masochist" Smith.
So it’s only natural that we go big with fantasy winning time happening right now.
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THE BOSTON MARKET
Avery Bradley wasn’t able to match his big Tuesday night outing, but I thought a 6-of-15 shooting mark was a good sign in the sense he’s getting touches. He finished with 13 points, four assists and a trey in 34 tough minutes against a solid Indy defense, and though I wonder about his sustainability he should be owned in standard formats in my book. He has just enough upside to offset the pedestrian body of work, and it looks like the Celtics are ready to lean on him a little bit.
Behind Bradley in fantasy leagues is Courtney Lee, who suited up despite a minor eye injury, and put up 10 points, four boards, four assists, two steals and two threes. He’s also worth a look in standard leagues and has been playing better lately, but he’s probably a better fit for 14-16 team formats where his low-end production can be justified in an active lineup. Paul Pierce is dealing with a pinched nerve in his neck and a bone bruise in his left knee, and his 4-of-15 makes for 13 points and an otherwise normal stat line wasn’t great, but right now the issues aren’t expected to cost him time. Still, we’ll be watching as both he and Kevin Garnett make sense as rest candidates down the stretch.
Writer's Note: Courtney Lee did not have that stat line last night, Jason Terry did. Our blurber saw Terry's numbers and attributed them to Lee, and I bought it hook, line and sinker. I can assure you the proper authorities have been notified, and the offending blurber will be forced to watch Kris Humphries explain his views on, like, stuff. Lee's outlook is diminished incrementally while Terry's gets a bump incrementally, but the needle really shouldn't move much with either guy and neither is a must-own player in standard formats.
Danny Granger (knee) was persona non grata around here during draft season, and the one-week timetable for evaluation following a clean MRI is enough bad news to kick him out of must-own status. It also solidifies the deep league value of Lance Stephenson, who posted 12 points on 6-of-15 shooting with a career-high five steals and two assists. If you want to take a flier on him in a standard league I wouldn’t write you a sternly worded letter, but you’re essentially gambling that Granger implodes and hoping for a late-season improvement. Roy Hibbert had a nice night going for 12 and 12 with six blocks, and barring a surge down the stretch or massive playoff performance he’ll face question marks this offseason.
Al Jefferson (ankle) did not play last night and he has yet to practice, so owners should put him in the day-to-day category with an open-mind to his timetable. The Jazz have four games in six days starting on Friday, so an educated guess would lean toward the team making sure he is healthy enough to sustain that kind of action before unleashing him. Derrick Favors got the start in his place and had just six points on 2-of-6 shooting, but also added 12 rebounds, a steal and four blocks in 31 minutes.
The big news here was Mo Williams’ relatively early return from thumb surgery, as he scored eight points on 3-of-12 shooting with three rebounds, six assists, a block and two threes in 27 minutes. He was going out of his way to dribble with his left (non-injured) hand at times, but this is as good of a return game as owners could expect. Hopefully you were able to snag him off the wire amidst some wishy-washy reports on our end. Alec Burks also showed well, scoring 14 points on 6-of-12 shooting with four rebounds, four assists, one steal and one three in 27 minutes. I think he’ll get squeezed for minutes, but Randy Foye (11 points, three treys, one steal, one block, 34 minutes) isn’t doing much and with the Jazz’s solid schedule he’s worth a look in deep leagues for sure.
Gordon Hayward continued along that second-half surge I felt like I was never going to see after selling his case throughout the dark, early days. He scored 25 points on 8-of-17 shooting with three treys, seven assists, and three steals in 34 minutes. At one point I noticed that Williams angled to bring the ball up the floor after Hayward was given the ball in the backcourt and Hayward waved him off, and it’s about time that the Jazz got wise to what they have. Though they didn’t win the game tonight on the road against the lowly Cavs, they should have gotten off the Jefferson morphine drip early in the year and started to develop their younger group so much sooner. Respected writer Zach Lowe quipped that the Jazz had a better chance of winning last night without Jefferson in the lineup, an idea I’ve written about a lot, and while I don’t subscribe to that theory in full you just can’t have a guy that gives nothing on defense take so many shots without making anybody else around him better.
Meanwhile, Enes Kanter (a guy I added and started in many places this week) looked great in his 21 minutes, scoring 17 points on 8-of-11 shooting with seven rebounds and a block. Kanter hustled, beat his man up and down the court, and was a force inside – and why he didn’t play more minutes is yet another ding on Ty Corbin’s jalopy.
THE COLD IN CLEVELAND
Dion Waiters did not play last night due to illness, leaving the door open for Wayne Ellington to start and score 16 points on 4-of-12 shooting with six rebounds in a season-high 38 minutes. Ellington has been worth a look in much deeper leagues lately, but owners shouldn’t go reading into last night’s outing given Waiters’ absence. Tyler Zeller returned from that same flu, and while he had two steals and three blocks in 23 minutes, he still managed just three points and four rebounds. With Marreese Speights (14 points, seven rebounds, one block, 18 minutes) still nibbling at the edges, neither player is really fit for standard formats.
BEATING UP THE BOBCATS
Joe Johnson matched his season-high with five 3-pointers en route to 22 points, five boards and three assists in 39 minutes, and while his overall outlook won’t change in these parts the minutes are a good sight given his heel issues. Deron Williams also played well with 20 points on 7-of-12 shooting and a full stat line. Yes, this all comes against the lowly Bobcats in a 19-point win, but owners of these two guys will take all the good news they can get at this point. We can back away from C.J. Watson (five points, four assists, 21 minutes) as a stash in deep formats as long as they’re both healthy.
Gerald Wallace finally made some noise with a season-high five blocks to go with eight points on 1-of-7 shooting, eight boards, and two steals in an overall mixed performance. The same Bobcats disclaimer applies here, but give him a look if you’re in need of a forward. Just keep those proverbial expectations in check.
BYRON IN THE BASEMENT
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was probably dropped in quite a few leagues after some particularly bad performances last week, but he has picked things up lately and had another decent night with 17 points, five rebounds and two steals in 32 minutes. I scooped him up as a stash in a few spots and I like the decision to add a guy whose defensive numbers could have standalone value while the Bobcats try to develop him down the stretch.
Byron Mullens owners, including yours truly, have been pulling hair out this week as he has tested his knee out in two consecutive games with disastrous results. He lasted just 13 minutes last night, scoring four points on 2-of-6 shooting with nothing else, and he’s no longer a must-own player after a promising comeback from his ankle injury. At least there is an injury to point to here because otherwise he’d appear to be on Mike Dunlap’s growing poop list, but hopefully for those that continue to stash he’ll be relied upon for offense in the Cats’ shallow attack.
Carmelo Anthony has fluid buildup in his injured knee and did not play last night, but with the Thunder on the docket tonight it would make sense that the Knicks would hold him out of the front-end of the back-to-back. Interestingly, Berman of the (New York) Post threw mud against the wall interviewing a random doctor that suggested that Anthony might have cartilage issues or a bone bruise and need offseason surgery. Melo said he “felt better” despite being questionable for tonight. I wouldn’t put much stock in a random doctor’s opinion, and we’ll all be watching to see if this has lasting consequences or is something he can deal with relatively easily.
As it usually goes when Anthony is out, Raymond Felton (26 points, 10-of-15 FGs, six boards, four assists, one steal, one block) and J.R. Smith (20 points, 7-of-22 FGs, four treys, four boards, five assists, four steals) had the ultra green light. Amare Stoudemire took advantage of the Pistons’ barren interior with 22 points on 8-of-12 shooting, nine boards and one block in 31 minutes, and if your league’s trading deadline hasn’t passed this would be a sell-high moment. Jason Kidd got loose for six points on 2-of-7 shooting (all threes) with five boards, six assists, three steals and a block. He has been productive lately and it’s unclear how much he has in the tank down the stretch, but he’s worth a flier if you have dead weight.
DOWN AND OUT IN DETROIT
The one thing the Pistons cannot sustain right now is an injury to Greg Monroe while Andre Drummond is out, and that’s what they got when Monroe couldn’t put pressure on his ankle before last night’s game. X-rays returned negative but his status for Friday’s game is in doubt, and that opens a short-term window for Jason Maxiell (14 points, nine rebounds, two blocks, 37 minutes), who also benefitted from Charlie Villanueva being out due to a sore left hamstring.
On a side note, if there was any chance the Pistons were being overly cautious with Drummond, the next 24-48 hours might be a good time for them to give him added consideration for return. I don’t know that this is a run-to-the-wire moment, but depending on how you felt about Drummond before yesterday you might want to be on the lookout for news.
Brandon Knight scored 17 points on 6-of-17 shooting (including four treys) with five rebounds, one assist and one block, and though his consistency is still likely to be an issue the uptick in shot attempts playing next to willing distributor Jose Calderon is enough to keep him owned across the board. Calderon did his thing with 10 points and 16 assists and will be on the shortlist of fantasy surprises this year.
Nikola Vucevic demolished the Heat the last time out and gained league-wide attention for it, and followed that huge night with another 25 points, 21 rebounds, and four assists. He griped about getting benched in the fourth quarter the last time out, and I’d gripe too if I was putting up numbers like this. This probably says more about the Heat’s suspect play than it does about Vucevic in a vacuum, but he’s establishing himself as a legitimate center in the league and he’ll be an interesting guy to rank for next year’s drafts. Remember, he has the ability to hit the 3-ball, and that looks like Kevin Love territory if he decides to go back to it.
Jameer Nelson usually plays well against the Heat, and last night was no different as he scored 16 points with 14 assists, three steals and three treys. He has moved E’Twaun Moore (17 minutes) and Beno Udrih (four minutes) into cut territory in most formats. Tobias Harris kept his foot on the gas with 16 points, seven rebounds, one block, one steal and a three in 29 minutes. Unlike his rookie teammates, he has shown consistency since blasting onto the scene and should be owned in all formats.
OFF NIGHTS ARE DREAM NIGHTS
LeBron James’ dream season continued last night as he converted on a game-deciding layup with 3.2 seconds left to lift the Heat over the Magic. He finished with 26 points and an 11-of-12 mark from the foul line to go with a quiet three rebounds, two assists and one block. Dwyane Wade added 24 points on 10-of-16 shooting with six rebounds, three assists, four steals and one block, continuing on a late-season push as a first round value.
MR. WRIGHT NOW
The Sixers suck train spilled into last night’s loss to the Hawks, with Evan Turner’s two points on 1-of-7 shooting, three rebounds and four assists pinned most prominently on fantasy owners’ dart boards. He’s about as up and down as they come in fantasy leagues, which is why I was neither high nor low on him when some started to crow about a breakout. Dorell Wright, on the other hand, continued to make his case with fantasy owners putting up 20 points, nine rebounds, three steals and three treys in 32 minutes, and though he could get bounced around when Nick Young gets back I think owners have to give him a decent look in standards. Damien Wilkins came out of nowhere for 21 points and six boards, and with two DNP-CDs under his belt this week he needs to do it again and again.
Kyle Korver (toe) got back on the court and scored nine points with one 3-pointer, and he should still be owned in all standard formats. Devin Harris has been a borderline addition in 12-14 team formats providing low-end numbers recently, but the downside showed up last night as he managed just six points and two assists in 26 minutes. Anthony Tolliver showed that fantasy friendly game that always raises an eyebrow, scoring 21 points with eight rebounds, five treys and two blocks in 26 minutes. Unfortunately, one look at his game log tells the story and he needs to follow up with something substantial before owners blink here.
DON’T YOU CRY TONIGHT
Nicolas Batum hit just 4-of-10 shots for 10 points, but had four rebounds, three assists and a trey in a low-end performance by his standards. He may not be the stud he was shaping up to be prior to the shooting wrist injury, but he’s a strong bet to stay in the top-36 for the rest of the year. LaMarcus Aldridge struggled against a formidable Grizzlies defense, hitting just 2-of-13 shots for 10 points, 10 boards, six assists, and two steals. Like his teammates, his bad nights aren’t going to be so bad. J.J. Hickson double-doubled with 12 points and 13 rebounds, and also added one steal with two blocks. Meyers Leonard backed off with just five points and four boards in 16 minutes, so those in deep leagues can take a step away from the keyboard.
Zach Randolph (ankle) was limping badly on Tuesday and did not play last night, and with the Grizz looking at a back-to-back on Friday and Saturday against the Cavs and Hornets it would make sense that the team plays it safe. A totally random guess would have him playing on Saturday, which means that Ed Davis (three points, six boards, one steal, two blocks, 25 minutes) is still worth a look in spot action. Mike Conley scored 20 points on 7-of-11 shooting with three rebounds, six assists, two steals, two blocks and a three, and for all the talk about disappointing production he has been a top-30 play which is nothing to shake a stick at. Marc Gasol went for 23 and 12 as the Grizzlies dispatched the Blazers at home.
Bradley Beal (ankle) was doubtful heading into last night and did not play, as expected. He’s being treated as day-to-day but I don’t sense a return is imminent. This left Martell Webster (11 points, seven rebounds, two threes) free to play 42 minutes and Trevor Ariza logged 38 minutes on his way to 16 points on 4-of-10 shooting with three treys, seven rebounds, six assists and one steal. Ariza won’t keep up that level of production when Beal returns but with Jordan Crawford out of the way he has a good chance of providing low-end production for owners. Nene had seven turnovers and five fouls in 36 minutes, but still went for 12 and eight with a steal and block, while Emeka Okafor double-doubled with 10 points, 14 rebounds and a block. Okafor’s value has been dragged down by really bad shooting (48.8% FGs, 54.5% FTs) but if you’re punting he has been a nice find.
LOVE WILL FIND A WAY
We got a Kevin Love (hand) update yesterday, as he is going to meet with a specialist in New York next week and if all goes well he would like to return the week after. The Wolves are 10 games out of the playoff hunt so I’d guess they play things pretty safe with Love, but if he can meet his timeline he’ll be looking at about 15 games, which can clearly help owners out. He should be owned in all formats for that possibility.
With Nikola Pekovic (ab strain) and Andrei Kirilenko (calf) out for at least this week, Derrick Williams had another serviceable night with 16 points, eight rebounds and one steal to go with 4-of-12 FGs and 7-of-11 FTs. Despite the holes in his fantasy game he has been getting it done for owners as a waiver wire pickup and he should have at least a week or two in him before things get hairy. Ricky Rubio went off for 15 points, 11 assists, seven rebounds and six steals, and he's averaging 13.4 points, 5.5 rebounds, 9.5 assists and an uncanny 3.6 steals per game over the last month. Wow.
Alexey Shved hit just 1-of-6 shots for four points in 21 minutes, and I wonder if we’ll hear some explanation for his intense freefall. Whether it’s the ankle injury or the rookie wall, he has disappointed enough to ignore the awesome schedule until he shows some signs of life. Chase Budinger (knee) is taking jumpers and is targeting a 2-3 week return, which is something for owners to keep an eye on for long-term evaluations at the wing positions in Minny.
NEVER A DULL NIGHT
It’s never a dull night in Laker-land, as they put together a 25-point comeback win in New Orleans behind Kobe Bryant’s 42 points on 14-of-21 shooting with three treys, seven boards, 12 assists, and one block. Whatever was ailing him and causing him to stop hitting threes appears to have ceased, and he’s primed to be a force down the stretch as the Lakers claw at my Warriors and others to make the playoffs.
Dwight Howard played despite more shoulder pain, scoring 20 points with 15 boards, three steals and four blocks in 35 minutes, so owners can continue to use him as they normally would. Earl Clark has fizzled out lately and had another rough night with five points on free throws (0-for-4 FGs), two rebounds, three assists and one steal in 25 minutes, and is no longer a must-own player despite the lack of depth in the frontcourt.
Metta World Peace didn’t look bothered by his ankle injury, scoring 11 points with two steals and three treys in 30 minutes. Like Howard, use him as you normally would. Steve Nash was quiet with five points on 2-of-7 shooting, four rebounds and one assist, and unfortunately this is going to be the way things go for Nash with plenty of ups and downs. Jodie Meeks hit five treys with four of them coming in the fourth quarter, finishing with 19 points and not much else in 26 minutes. Maybe the outing will garner him a few more looks in the short-term, but he’s still nothing but a deep league specialist at best for the time-being.
TODAY IN ANTHONY DAVIS ON THE BENCH
Greivis Vasquez scored 15 points with five rebounds, 12 assists and two threes, while his backcourt mate Eric Gordon hit just 7-of-23 shots for 18 points, five rebounds, five assists and four treys, and as we’ve said a million times if he can still be dealt owners have to try to do it on nights when he puts up the popcorn numbers.
Austin Rivers may have mercifully seen his disaster rookie season come to an end when he fractured the fourth metacarpal on his right (shooting) hand. He’s slated to be out for 4-6 weeks. Robin Lopez double-doubled with 13 points, 11 boards, one steal and two blocks in a whopping 40 minutes, while Anthony Davis was benched one again. Davis played 17 minutes and still posted 13 points with six boards and two blocks.
Monty Williams said that it wouldn’t be fair to Davis to play him heavily against Dwight Howard since he’s coming off a shoulder injury, which is yet another weird occurrence considering Davis said he was fine. If all of these benchings are happening due to injury issues it’s one thing, but Williams’ reputation as a tinkerer is reaching new levels and I don’t see how it’s helping Davis’ development to ride the pine. With minutes clearing up due to Rivers and Jason Smith’s injuries, I think Lopez has a pretty strong case for being owned in 12-team standards going forward. Al-Farouq Aminu will also benefit from the extra available minutes, and his 12 points, 16 rebounds, two steals and three blocks are reminiscent of his early season push.
James Harden hit just 5-of-17 shots last night, but in typical fashion he probably won the free throw category for owners last night with a perfect 16 makes. He finished with 28 points, four rebounds, nine assists, two steals and two treys. Given his ADP he’ll be a common component on winning fantasy squads. Chandler Parsons has been just as consistent this season and put up another 23 points, five treys, four boards, and one block.
Omer Asik did his double-double damage to the tune of 12 points and 15 rebounds in just 23 minutes, and Jeremy Lin added 12 points with just three assists in 25 minutes. Lin’s minutes have dipped recently and owners may be wondering about Patrick Beverly and Aaron Brooks, but Lin has bounced back so many times it’s hard to doubt him at this point. And strategically speaking, I can’t see the Rockets wanting to mess with their chemistry so late in the season as long as Lin plays within his normal range of effectiveness.
Donatas Motiejunas disappeared with seven points and one rebound in 16 minutes, while Thomas Robinson got the lion’s share of minutes (28) at power forward and finished with eight points, four rebounds, one steal and two blocks. This looks like a matchup-based timeshare going forward, but we’ll definitely be watching to see if one guy can emerge over the other. For now, they’re deep league assets and if you took a flier on Motie he can certainly be dropped for a hot free agent.
MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE
O.J. Mayo hasn’t been making headlines lately but he has quietly been good for owners, and last night he got back on the big board with a career-high 12 assists, 13 points, six rebounds and three treys. Darren Collison (seven points, five assists, one three, 23 minutes) was benched so Mike James (eight points, three boards, six assists, 25 minutes) could start, in Rick Carlisle’s most recent message sent to Collison via playing time. Collison should remain owned in 12-14 team leagues and James is worth a look in deeper formats than that, but it wouldn’t be surprising if he disappeared once the message was received by DC.
Shawn Marion scored 22 points on 10-of-16 shooting with three rebounds, four assists and two steals, and should be in most lineups right now. Brandan Wright (12 points, two boards, one steal, one block, 27 minutes) was the flavor of the day at center, and all of a sudden Elton Brand (nine points, three rebounds, one block, 18 minutes) and Chris Kaman (DNP-CD) are on the outs. That’s the way it rolls in Dallas and owners should aim higher in 12-team formats.
Derrick Rose (knee) is now day-to-day and it’s anybody’s guess when the man will play. In the one spot I have him stashed I held him through last weekend (deep 12-team Roto league). He’ll be on the chopping block for this weekend’s FAAB run but as usual we’ll see how it goes. Kirk Hinrich (foot) did not play and his status will seemingly be in doubt for the rest of the season. That leaves things wide open for Nate Robinson, who hit just 3-of-13 shots for seven points, five assists, a steal, a block, and one three in 24 minutes. I think Robinson should be owned in most standards for the chance he can provide low-end numbers, but Marquis Teague (11 points, three boards, three assists, one steal, three treys, 24 minutes) has hit my radar if for anything because Tom Thibodeau hates playing Robinson. I’m not rushing to add Teague in most reasonably sized formats, but if we get bad news on Rose at any point I’ll start to consider a speculative add if things continue to trend upward for the rookie.
Marco Belinelli started again at shooting guard and posted 21 points on 8-of-16 shooting with two rebounds and seven assists in 41 minutes. That gives him two 20-point nights in a row and with nobody encroaching on his playing time as of late, he’s worth an add in standard leagues even though owners should keep expectations in check given his inconsistency.
The four-headed point guard monster for the Spurs was a tough fantasy question to answer when Tony Parker went down, and if you eschewed the entire list for Manu Ginobili then you get Gregg Popovich’s heartwarming death stare. Ginobili racked up 18 points, three boards, nine assists and three treys, proving why owners should hang onto a guy with upside despite a seriously slow season.
Cory Joseph got the start and finished with four points on 2-of-5 shooting, five rebounds, two assists and a steal in his 24 minutes, while Patty Mills tossed together yet another shooting guard line of 13 points on 5-of-6 shooting with two rebounds, zero assists, one steal and three treys in his 22 minutes. Nando De Colo played just two minutes despite the Spurs keeping the Bulls at bay for most of the night, and Gary Neal (Achilles) was supposed to play but didn’t.
Danny Green (seven points, one three, not much else) saw just 24 minutes in the easy win, but owners shouldn’t worry at all with Parker out and plenty of touches available. Tiago Splitter (13 points, 10 boards) isn’t blocking shots recently, but he has strung together three decent games and is worth a look again as the Spurs play four games next week. Tim Duncan was his typical wonderful self with 18 points, 10 boards, one steal and five blocks, and at this point owners just have to downgrade his games played outlook and hope for the best. Kawhi Leonard scored 14 points with seven rebounds, one steal and one block and is paying off the patient with relatively consistent production. He is a top-25 play in 9-cat leagues and a top-50 play in 8-cat leagues on a per-game basis this season, but his knee issue will be something to watch as Pop gets ready for the playoffs.
The Raptors got to feast on a reeling Suns squad last night, which meant some down performances for Kyle Lowry (five points, four assists, two steals, 21 minutes) and Rudy Gay (five points, five rebounds, two blocks, 23 minutes). Sebastian Telfair got 27 minutes in the blowout in front of his family, and it’s probable that Dwane Casey wanted him to get his licks in. I wouldn’t read into any playing time issue with Lowry.
Andrea Bargnani reverted back to form with nine points on 4-of-10 shooting, five rebounds, one three and one steal, and while there is some upside the downside represents the heavier side of the scale. Jonas Valanciunas played just 20 minutes with 10 points, three rebounds, one steal and two blocks, and it would have been nice to see him let loose against a Suns team without Marcin Gortat (foot) for most of the game. Amir Johnson did Amir Johnson things with 14 points on 5-of-8 shooting, six rebounds and one steal in 28 minutes, and DeMar DeRozan scored 15 points with six rebounds, four assists and one steal in a normal night.
Marcin Gortat owners got a push over the cliff when he injured his right foot and heard a “pop,” and admitted after the game that he could miss a few weeks. He’ll have an MRI today and given his distaste for the way things have been run in Phoenix all year it’s fair to wonder how hard he’ll work to get back. Owners may want to play conservative and hang on for the next 24 hours, but I wouldn’t pass up an above average free agent to do it. This leaves behind an interesting fantasy situation with Jermaine O’Neal suddenly front and center while out due to his daughter’s heart surgery. It’s hard for me to give fantasy advice in a situation like this because my main concern lies with he and his family, but when he returns he’s positioned as well as possible to be a factor down the stretch. Even with his various risks, I’m looking at him as a must-own player with the hopes he can continue his solid play.
Beyond O’Neal there are still considerable minutes to fill down low and nobody with any real girth to do the job. Hamed Haddadi (two rebounds, nine minutes) will see some time down low but has no real fantasy value until he can show us something, which leaves Luis Scola (six points, eight rebounds, 24 minutes) and Markieff Morris (three points, 1-of-7 FGs, six rebounds, one steal, one block, 27 minutes) as the only guys that can literally stand in the post and get in the way.
If we forget for a second that Lindsey Hunter has no clue what he is doing and the Suns are a mess, and that somebody has to produce from the 4-5 holes, then I think both guys deserve strong consideration to be owned in standard formats. Marcus Morris (12 points, four rebounds, 5-of-9 FGs, two threes, 23 minutes) plays a bit further from the rim than his brother, but he’s right there in the mix with the aforementioned as a potential beneficiary and I think he’s worth a speculative add, too. In terms of filling those slots, though, I think he’s third in line to eat, even if he could see as big of a bump in fantasy value with minutes opening up in general.
Michael Beasley (seven points, one rebound, 17 minutes) has been atrocious and is probably checked out, but he’ll be somebody to watch closely from the wire in standard formats. Wes Johnson (five points, 2-of-9 FGs, five boards, one block) has some potential for versatility and logged 29 minutes last night, but I wonder if he can hold standard league value given his inconsistent play.
Jared Dudley (nine points, four assists, two steals, 19 minutes) would be a must-add player if Hunter didn’t have the Suns in a quagmire, but he’s not in that discussion when it appears he is on the outs. Goran Dragic played through his back injury after a solid early week rest, finishing with eight points on 3-of-9 shooting, four rebounds, six assists and a steal, and if the Suns were smart they’d just give him the ball and get out of the way.
PUSHING THE RIGHT BUTTONS
Reports of Brandon Jennings’ demise were greatly exaggerated, albeit justifiable in the sense that J.J. Redick (22 minutes, three points, two assists) isn’t going away anytime soon. He put up 18 points, 12 assists, and five treys with a steal while hitting 50 percent of his shots, and it seems Jim Boylan’s talk about racking up assists has been taken to heart. In fact, it’s worth noting that Boylan has appeared to push the right buttons in this go-around as interim coach, for what it’s worth.
Monta Ellis stayed hot with 22 points on 9-of-15 shooting, six assists, and two treys, as did Ersan Ilyasova who had 20 points on 7-of-12 shooting, five rebounds, three assists and three 3-pointers. It seems like eons ago that I was begging you guys to hang on, while sweating bullets in the process. Larry Sanders is finally getting the Defensive Player of the Year buzz I’ve also been begging for, but it’s mostly been reserved for the basketball nerd types like us that pour over box scores. He finally snapped a streak of games with a block that started on November 26, but still posted a serviceable 11 points, seven boards, three assists and one steal in last night’s loss to the Clippers.
IN YOUR FACE AND UNDER THE RADAR
Blake Griffin has somehow flown underneath the radar this season in both fantasy and reality, but I’m very impressed with the steps forward he has taken at the line and in his playmaking in general. He triple-doubled last night with 23 points on 9-of-14 shooting, 11 rebounds, 11 assists, one steal, one block, and a dunk of the year entry. Matt Barnes was probably motivated by his hate for the league office last night, as he caught fire with 20 points on 7-of-12 shooting, six treys, one steal and one block in 28 minutes. The Clippers schedule is pretty bad down the stretch, but owners shouldn’t sleep on Barnes’ ability to put up mid-round value when things are going good. I think he should be owned in most 12-14 team formats after a night like this. Jamal Crawford was the quarterback on Griffin’s insane dunk, and finished with 25 points on 11-of-16 shooting, three treys, four boards, three steals and a block.
I AM SO SMART, S-M-R-T
You guys thought I was joking when I said that Toney Douglas (10 points, 28 minutes, three rebounds, six assists, two threes, 28 minutes) could join a rebuilding Kings team and further erode any hope of continuity for Isaiah Thomas and Co. Let me preface this by saying I’m not panicking on Thomas’ overall value proposition by any means, but as we all know anything can happen on any given night. The sad part is that while the city of Sacramento fights tooth and nail to keep their team their coach refuses to check his ego at the door and play the right guys – the guys that anybody with a basketball IQ higher than slobber can see should be on the floor.
So Smart benched Thomas for the 50th or more time in his career with no discernible reason. Thomas scored nine points on 3-of-5 shooting with one assist, one steal, and one three in 20 minutes, and as usual the decision cost his team a winnable game when the lack of a real point guard on the floor late killed them yet again.
Smart also benched DeMarcus Cousins (five points, 2-of-10 FGs, four rebounds, three assists, four steals, one block, 20 minutes), who was playing horribly, but one can’t help but think this is all just a mutiny of historic proportions brewing. I’m thinking Varsity Blues meets Bad News Bears 2 with the old guy that can’t talk and mows the lawn.
John Salmons regressed to the norm with five points on 2-of-9 shooting in the easiest predictable decline in recent memory, while Tyreke Evans looked as lost as one can look for having nine points on 4-of-14 shooting, six assists, one steal and two blocks. Jason Thompson (17 points, eight boards, two steals, 8-of-13 FGs) tweeted his disgust after the game, and Cousins served the media Gatorade because in his words, he had plenty of energy.
Marcus Thornton was benched late in a key situation for no apparent reason and finished with nine points on 3-of-8 shooting with six rebounds, one steal and one three in 28 minutes – highlighting why I’ve been hesitant to get all the way behind him despite the fact he should be a no-brainer 15-20 ppg game guy for this club. Patrick Patterson scored 15 points on 6-of-10 shooting (including three treys) with eight rebounds, four assists, one steal and one block in 28 minutes off the bench, and I think owners need to see it again before seriously contemplating an add in this Major League mess.
Of course, my Warriors struggled to deal with the Kings juggernaut at home and that just about sums up their state of affairs. Shooting 36 percent as a team against a team that barely runs back on defense is not a great sign for their playoff chase, though they’ve won two games in a row now and by virtue of their cake schedule early they’re probably going to slip in.
Klay Thompson hit just 6-of-17 shots (including four threes) for 20 points with five rebounds and not much else, Stephen Curry was equally as cold with 13 points on 3-of-11 shooting, two treys, five rebounds, eight assists, two steals and six turnovers, and David Lee had his customary 17 points, 10 boards, three assists and one steal. Harrison Barnes has strung together a few mediocre lines for deep leagues and had 14 points with four rebounds last night, but I think owners should just watch him for now. Andrew Bogut played 28 minutes and scored two points on free throws with just two missed shot attempts, but he did manage eight rebounds, two steals and two blocks. If you’re desperate for a big man give him a look but don’t expect him to improve overnight or stay healthy.
THURSDAY NIGHT LIGHTS
OKC @ NYK: We’ll be all over the Carmelo Anthony (knee) update and that’s the only real big news heading into tonight.
LAC @ DEN: Chauncey Billups (back) is day-to-day but I wouldn’t expect the Clips to let him go unless he’s close to 100 percent. The Nuggets got a night off and the Clippers are on the back-end of a back-to-back, but this game should have plenty of energy and plenty of fireworks.
PROGRAMMING NOTE: I’m back on the chat! Travel schedules have been tight covering the Kings saga but I’ll be back at 9 p.m. ET to take your questions. I can’t wait – it’s been too long.